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Cultivate a controlled cloud with AWS management tools

Cloud management systems are growing in demand, as the vast array of products that AWS offers can quickly lead to sprawl. These tools can help control the cloud.

As cloud adoption continues to grow in the enterprise, so does demand for management systems that provide tighter control and visibility into cloud environments. In fact, global spending on cloud management software and software as a service soared 29.9% in 2014, totaling $2.3 billion, according to industry analyst IDC.

And while all cloud users should prioritize cloud management and monitoring, Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers, given the sheer size of AWS' portfolio, should take an especially proactive approach.

"The underlying [management] principles are always the same across clouds," said Dan Sullivan, independent consultant and TechTarget contributor. "But it may be more difficult in AWS, given that they have so many services and different uses." 

For full reign over their environments, AWS shops should monitor and manage not only AWS configurations and performance, but also costs, security and software development lifecycles, Sullivan said. And there's a range of AWS management tools to meet each of these needs.

For AWS performance management, for example, there's CloudWatch, a native AWS management tool that monitors metrics for major AWS utilities, including Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Redshift. The public cloud giant also offers a cost calculator that helps users project cloud costs. But third-party tools, such as those from Cloudability and Cloudyn, are often needed for more detailed monitoring and reporting.

While the AWS Management Console, for instance, is a helpful tool for managing AWS resources, third-party AWS management tools offer more granularity, said Alex Witherspoon, VP of platform engineering at FlightStats, a Portland, Ore.-based company providing global flight data.

What's more, for organizations that use AWS alongside other cloud deployments, third-party tools help track workloads as they move across different environments -- a capability you wouldn't necessarily get from AWS tools alone, Witherspoon said.

"We can actually see the point-in-time cost of an exact transaction in a system -- what it costs to service it and what we charged for that transaction," Witherspoon said, noting that his company uses a third-party monitoring tool from New Relic. "That gives us the ability to make a lot of judgments about whether we should use Amazon differently, or not use Amazon at all, or vice versa."

To streamline AWS management, organizations should first automate their cloud infrastructure, Sullivan said. Third-party cloud management tools, such as RightScale and Puppet, can help automate AWS deployments.

Organizations should look to gain full visibility and control over their AWS environments, even if it takes time. For sandbox and testing environments, management and monitoring is less critical. But for AWS production environments -- especially those that users want to replicate -- a robust management strategy and toolset is a must.

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